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Kirkland man charged after authorities find ricin

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Federal authorities have arrested a 37-year-old Kirkland man they say made ricin in his apartment from mail-order castor seeds.

Robert M. Alberg was charged in federal court on Friday with knowingly possessing a biological agent or toxin and was booked into the federal detention center in SeaTac pending indictment, U.S. Attorney's spokesman Lawrence Lincoln said yesterday. Alberg's next court appearance is set for Thursday, when a judge could order him to undergo a mental-health evaluation, Lincoln said.

The federal complaint doesn't indicate that Alberg had a set plan to release the ricin, and an FBI spokeswoman said no one was at risk. Lincoln declined to speculate whether Alberg has terrorist ties.

Ricin is a biological agent that is considered a deadly toxin, according to the complaint filed against Alberg in U.S. District Court. Ricin is typically fatal when ingested, has no known antidote and is virtually impossible to trace as a cause of death, court papers say.

What is ricin?

Ricin, derived from castor beans, is considered one of the most toxic natural substances, able to kill cells and shut down bodily organs. It's most potent when injected: 500 micrograms can be fatal. Inhalation is also deadly. There is no antidote.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Congressional Research Service

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